Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office: Annual Report 2012-13

Output 1.4: International Safeguards and Non-Proliferation

Contribution to the development and effective implementation of international safeguards and the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Performance Measures

  • Contribute to the strengthening of international safeguards in ways that advance Australia's interests
  • Contribute to policy development and diplomatic activity by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
  • Contribute to the IAEA's Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation (SAGSI)
  • Manage the Australian Safeguards Support Program (ASSP)
  • Cooperate with counterparts in other countries in the strengthening of international safeguards and improvement of domestic safeguards implementation
  • Provide advice and assistance to the Australian Intelligence Community in support of national and international non-proliferation efforts
  • Manage ASNO's international outreach program
  • Assess developments in nuclear technology

Performance Assessment

Strengthening International Safeguards

ASNO took an active role in the review, development, and effective implementation of international safeguards during the reporting period, through engagement with the IAEA at both management and operational levels, as well as through other international safeguards fora. This engagement includes the Director General's IAEA's Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation (SAGSI), technical meetings on IAEA safeguards projects, and conferences and workshops. Additionally, ASNO participated in the Australian delegation to the IAEA Board of Governors and General Conference meetings in September 2012, and at the General Conference contributed actively to the negotiation of the safeguards resolution.

Engagement in such fora enables ASNO to maintain specialist knowledge on developments, emerging issues, and challenges in safeguards, which supports ASNO's policy advice to Government on international non-proliferation issues as well as informing ASNO's scrutiny and administration of Australia's bilateral nuclear safeguards arrangements. ASNO has provided input into shaping the evolution of safeguards implementation, such as through participation in SAGSI. ASNO has made a number of presentations during the reporting period at international conferences to assist in explaining and supporting the work of the IAEA. ASNO also assisted the IAEA with its communication of the state-level concept by providing opportunities for the IAEA to present to the broad community of states that attended the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network (APSN) plenary in October 2012.

ASNO assessed that the IAEA safeguards system effectively fulfilled its task of verifying the non-diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material subject to IAEA safeguards. There are some on-going areas of difficulty in safeguards implementation that the IAEA has identified that were reported by some media outlets in 2013. These issues include, for some states: inadequately developed State Systems of Accountancy and Control; accuracy, completeness and timeliness of nuclear material accountancy reports; and, not cooperating to the fullest extent expected, as manifested in actions such as delaying inspector access or limiting inspector activities. These are not new issues, and the degree to which these are a concern for each state should be assessed in the specific context of each state concerned, considering how these issues affect the IAEA's overall compliance conclusions and the international community's confidence in these conclusions. Amongst the states the IAEA had in mind in drawing attention to these issues some are clearly of considerable concern and subject to long-standing consideration by the Board of Governors, such as Iran and Syria, but many would relate more to implementation performance and regulatory capacity of states rather than deliberate efforts to disrupt or impede IAEA safeguards implementation.

It is important that the IAEA remains vigilant in addressing these issues and in providing training and promoting better practice, and for the international community to assist in this important endeavour. The purpose of IAEA safeguards is fundamentally about maintaining the international community's confidence in the non-proliferation compliance of each state, so there is a strong role both individually and collectively for states to assist in raising awareness and promoting better practice. The IAEA continues to work directly with individual states to address specific issues, but in parallel it is also significantly improving and expanding its public guidance materials for states. In March 2012 it published a new high-level safeguards implementation guidance document, Guidance for States Implementing Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols (Service Series 21), and in April 2013 a more targeted, Safeguards Implementation Guide for States with Small Quantities Protocols (Service Series 22). There are further guidance documents under development.

To the extent possible within budget constraints, ASNO continues to support these important activities by working with the IAEA and with regional and international counterparts, principally APSN, to develop the skills and capacity of safeguards authorities through training and support. ASNO has also contributed to the development of guidance documents through DG ASNO's chairmanship of SAGSI and the involvement of other ASNO staff in technical review committees. The most significant APSN project in the reporting period was a paper on the fundamentals and good practices for safeguards regulatory authorities29. This paper is designed to be a resource for states wishing to evaluate or benchmark their safeguards implementation, and it is significant that the IAEA has chosen to promote this paper on its web page for safeguards resources for states. ASNO has promoted the work of APSN on this paper through presentations at the Institute of Nuclear Material Measurement annual international meeting, Orlando, Florida (July 2012), and at a Vienna Centre for Nonproliferation and Disarmament workshop held in Vienna (September 2012).

ASNO Director General Robert Floyd speaking at the Next Generation Safeguards conference, Hanoi, Vietnam, July 2012

ASNO Director General Robert Floyd speaking at the Next Generation Safeguards conference, Hanoi, Vietnam, July 2012

Contribution to DFAT Policy Development and Diplomatic Activity

ASNO has provided key contributions to policy developments and diplomatic activities by providing analysis and advice on safeguards and non-proliferation issues. ASNO's close and supportive working relationship with the Australian Mission in Vienna continues, particularly with the Ambassador in the role of Australian Governor on the IAEA Board of Governors. ASNO plays a major role in providing the Mission with specialist advice on multilateral and country-specific issues, equipping the Mission to advance Australia's interests in maintaining strong non-proliferation and safeguards architecture. ASNO also provides advice on IAEA reports and current issues such as Iran and the DPRK.

The state-level concept

One aspect of safeguards that attracted considerable attention and scrutiny in the IAEA Board of Governors and the General Conference in the reporting period was the further development of safeguards implementation by the IAEA Department of Safeguards of the state-level concept. The state-level concept is the term the IAEA uses to describe the approach to safeguards implementation whereby it considers all safeguards-relevant information about a state as a whole, rather than the traditional and rigid criteria-based approach applied at the level of individual nuclear facilities.

The IAEA is developing the state-level concept in response to changes in a number of factors that impact the use of its resources used to efficiently and effectively implement safeguards. These are: the IAEA operates in a budget-constrained environment; the quantity of nuclear material under safeguards is increasing; the number and complexity of fuel cycle facilities is increasing; and, the proliferation risk profile of the nuclear fuel cycle is changing. The perennial challenge for the IAEA is finding the right balance between meeting the expectations of its Member States that it ensures states are honouring their safeguards obligations, and doing so as efficiently as possible without diminishing safeguards effectiveness or the objectiveness of its safeguards conclusions. With this in mind, the IAEA began a major project in 2010 to evolve the state-level concept to improve its effectiveness and efficiency and ultimately to apply this to all states. Further details are contained on pages 17–18 in ASNO's Annual Report for 2010–2011.

In 2012 some states began to express considerable concerns with the direction the IAEA was taking, arguing that the expansion of state-level approaches to all states had the potential to be subjective and inequitable in application and as such required approval from the Board of Governors. Australia does not share this view. State-level approaches have been applied for several years in states, such as Australia, that have a comprehensive safeguards agreement and Additional Protocol in force and where the IAEA has drawn the 'broader conclusion' that not only is all declared nuclear material accounted for, but that there is no undeclared nuclear material or activities. Australia was the first country to receive the broader conclusion and as such qualify for the application of state-level approaches (January 2001), so the IAEA has been implementing such approaches in Australia for over 10 years. The improvements in safeguards efficiency and effectiveness that has resulted has benefited Australia both in terms of implementation effort and also the benefit of enhanced international confidence in Australia's safeguards compliance resulting from the IAEA being able to consistently draw the strong conclusion that all nuclear material in Australia remains in peaceful use.

ASNO was actively involved in the negotiations of the safeguards resolution at the September 2012 IAEA General Conference. The concerns of some Member States with the state-level concept were very prominent in these negotiations. It was challenging to find an appropriate accommodation on this issue that balanced the desire of many states for the resolution to give adequate support to the IAEA's use of the state-level concept and the concerns of others states with the broader application of the concept. It was resolved by the inclusion in the resolution of a direct request to the IAEA Secretariat 'to report to the Board of Governors on the conceptualisation and development of the State-level concept for safeguards'. It is important to note that this request was not for the Secretariat to seek approval from the Board of Governors, as taking a state-level approach is well within the IAEA's mandate and the central elements have been endorsed by Member States at various times over several years. But when the report is presented (expected in late 2013), it will be an opportunity for states with concerns to discuss this with other members states and the Secretariat with the benefit of a fulsome explanation.

IAEA Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation

SAGSI is an advisory group of international experts appointed by and advising the IAEA Director General (DG) on safeguards implementation issues. Each expert is invited by the DG to serve a 3-year term, with the possibility of renewal. SAGSI has been in place since the late 1970s, and safeguards specialists in ASNO (and its predecessor the Australian Safeguards Office) have been on SAGSI for most of this time. SAGSI has two series of meetings each year, with each series usually comprising a working group meeting followed by a plenary meeting. During each series of meetings SAGSI examines and provides advice on a list of safeguards implementation topics set by the IAEA Director General. These topics relate to general issues of safeguards implementation, not country-specific issues. SAGSI members are appointed for a three-year period, with the current period spanning 2012 to 2014. In 2013, upon the retirement of the prior Canadian Chair, Dr Robert Floyd (DG ASNO) was appointed Chair of SAGSI by the IAEA Director General for the remainder of the current term. Dr Floyd's appointment started with the 77th series of SAGSI meetings which were held in the first half of 2013. SAGSI currently comprises 17 members from a broad mix of IAEA member states30

Much of the work of SAGSI during the reporting period (76th and 77th series of meetings) was focused on various aspects of the IAEA's development and implementation of the state-level concept (see page 73), including related elements of the state-level concept such as state-specific factors that could form part of the evaluation process, the information landscape in support of the state-level concept and communication plans. Other topics on SAGSI's agenda included:

  • enhancing safeguards infrastructure and capabilities at the IAEA Safeguards Analytical Laboratories
  • a draft IAEA safeguards implementation policy paper on the composition and purity properties of uranium at the front end of the fuel cycle (such as uranium ore concentrates) that meet the requirements for the application of full safeguards under comprehensive safeguards agreements
  • the annual IAEA Safeguards Implementation Report (SIR) and evaluation methodologies that support the SIR.

Australian Safeguards Support Program

The resources available to the IAEA are not sufficient to allow all necessary safeguards research and development programs to be conducted 'in-house'. Safeguards are an evolving discipline and the Australian Safeguards Support Program (ASSP) assists the IAEA develop the concepts, equipment and procedures needed to meet new challenges in a cost-effective way. The ASSP comprises collaborative work with ASNO, ASNO's counterparts and expert groups on a number of safeguards projects formally agreed with the IAEA. ASNO is the national manager for the ASSP, coordinating activities with other Australian agencies as well as undertaking several tasks internally. These projects are outlined below.



Re-examination of basic safeguards implementation parameters

This project remains open, but there were no activities during the reporting period.

Analytical services for environmental sampling

Environmental sampling is an important safeguards measure that enhances the IAEA's capability to detect undeclared nuclear activities. Work on this important project by ANSTO is ongoing.

Experimental investigation of behaviour of trace elements in uranium during the concentration and conversion processes

An ANSTO-wide uranium ore concentrates (UOC) half-day workshop was held in December 2012 to examine the future direction of UOC provenance research within ANSTO. The aim of the workshop was to utilise site-wide capabilities and expert knowledge to guide thinking on new projects. Several new ideas for future research arising from the workshop are current being formulated into research projects.

To ensure accurate analytical measurement of trace elements in uranium materials, the detailed examination of analytical data obtained on the certified uranium ore concentrate CUP-2, measured using inductively coupled mass spectrometry, was undertaken. An internal ANSTO report was prepared and further analytical work using a variety of analytical techniques for comparison is now proposed.

The goal of this task is to develop the capability of states to identify the origin of uranium materials. ANSTO's capability to determine the origin of an unknown UOC sample was required when Australian law enforcement authorities requested ANSTO provide identification and provenance of a 'real' seized uranium material. The analytical process undertaken at ANSTO, in collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has now been documented. A paper titled Nuclear Forensic Analysis of an Unknown Uranium Ore Concentrate Sample Seized in New South Wales, Australia is expected to be submitted for publication in late 2013.

ANSTO plans to participate in an IAEA Coordinated Research Project 'Development of High Confidence Nuclear Forensic Signatures for the Development of National Nuclear Forensic Libraries' and ANSTO's 'Proposal for Research Agreement' has been prepared. A large proportion of ANSTO's contribution involves investigation into the trace elemental signatures in uranium ores UOCs. Further Australian ore and UOC samples are currently being sourced for this project. In addition, further statistical analysis of analytical data will be undertaken.

Use of multi-sensor data for monitoring and detecting signatures relevant to the nuclear fuel cycle

This project remains open, but there were no activities during the reporting period.

Updates to fuel cycle manuals

This project remains open, but there were no activities during the reporting period.

Proliferation Analysis Workshop

The sixth Proliferation Analysis Workshop was conducted by the ASSP from 18 to 20 June 2013 in Vienna. The workshop participants were drawn from the support and operations divisions of the IAEA Safeguards Department. An analyst from the Office of National Assessments led the workshop and the Australian Permanent Mission to the IAEA actively supported the running of the workshop. The focus of the workshop was proliferation analysis. Participants explored not just analytical tools, but also the techniques for combining information from disparate sources to provide an overall picture of topics of interest. The IAEA considers that these workshops enhance the participants' analytical knowledge and skills so they can obtain a comprehensive perspective on safeguards-related issues.

All source information analysis for safeguards purposes

This project remains open, but there were no activities during the reporting period.

Network of analytical laboratories

In 2012, Australia's expanded its role in the IAEA's Network of Analytical Laboratories through the qualification of the University of Western Australia's Safeguards Laboratory (UWASL) which includes a large-geometry secondary ion mass spectrometer.

A contract between the IAEA and the University of Western Australia was signed on 23 October 2012. The UWASL received the first set of samples for environmental particle analysis on 9 November 2012 and reported the results for those samples to the IAEA on 6 December 2012.

During the reporting period, the UWASL has analysed 16 samples from two analytical requests including a total of 10 high-priority samples. The UWASL has received feedback from the IAEA concerning the analysis of one blind quality control sample that was received as part of a standard analytical request in 2013. The quality control sample contained a mixed population of LEU and HEU particles of known isotopic composition and performance was judged on three criteria.

New Australian Safeguards Support Program tasks in the reporting period

Safeguards Implementation Practices for Establishing and Maintaining a State System of Accounting for and Control of Nuclear Material

The aim of this project is to prepare input for the 'Safeguards Implementation Practices Guides', which are a vehicle for sharing more specific IAEA guidance than is found in the higher level documents already published, and for sharing good practices and lessons learned by states. ASNO is contributing to the drafting and reviewing of these documents as a member of the group tasked by the IAEA with completing the documents.

Cooperation with other States Parties

ASNO has close and long-standing relationships with nuclear safeguards and security agencies and practitioners in several countries in and outside the region with nuclear power plants, or with plans for nuclear power; such as China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, the United States and others. During the reporting period ASNO actively worked to maintain and reinforce these relationships through both high-level and operational-level discussions and also through projects under the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network.

ASNO staff presented papers at the July 2012 Institute of Nuclear Materials Management Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida. ASNO's papers are listed in appendix H.

International Outreach

ASNO continued its international outreach activities to assist countries in the region with the fulfilment of their non-proliferation safeguards and physical protection obligations. Assistance and training provided to professionals in a range of countries over the past 12 months included:

  • Commodity Identification Training for the Additional Protocol
  • Joint Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network (APSN) and Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA) workshop on the Additional Protocol – Hanoi, December 2012
  • ASEAN Regional Forum workshop on the Additional Protocol, Jakarta, June 2013

In July 2012 the US Department of Energy led Next Generation Safeguards Initiative (NGSI) held its 4th international meeting in Hanoi, attended by about 25 countries, primarily across the Asia-Pacific, but also including Middle East and South America and Europe, as well as the IAEA and Euratom. The objective of the workshop was to develop and promote a common understanding on implementing comprehensive safeguards agreements and additional protocols.

An initiative that has made a major contribution to ASNO's ongoing efforts to improve and strengthen the non-proliferation regime in the Asia-Pacific region is the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network (APSN), chaired by the Director General ASNO. The objective of APSN, established in 2009, is to improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of safeguards implementation in the Asia-Pacific region, which has provided ASNO with an opportunity to enhance its cooperation in areas such as training, professional development and the sharing of experiences. For example, ASNO is coordinating the work of APSN's safeguards infrastructure, implementation and awareness-raising working group.

Delegates at the 3rd Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network Plenary Meeting, Bangkok, Thailand, October 2012 (Image: APSN)

Delegates at the 3rd Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network Plenary Meeting, Bangkok, Thailand, October 2012 (Image: APSN)

Uranium in Greenland

ASNO along with other Australian agencies involved in the regulation of Australia's uranium industry provided advice on Australian practices to the Danish Government and to a global research project led by the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) on the safety, security and safeguards governing the extraction and exportation of natural uranium.

While a 2009 Self-Government Act provided Greenland full authority over its natural resources, Denmark remains constitutionally responsible for the Kingdom's foreign, defence and security policy and for IAEA safeguards. The current coalition government in Greenland has stated that it intends to lift a 25 year prohibition on mining uranium.

Australian companies are involved in rare earth element (REE) prospects in Greenland. In particular the OECD Report Uranium 2011: Resources, Production and Demand reports that the REE Kvanefjeld deposit in south Greenland has an inferred uranium resource of 158 757 t U3O8.

Uranium in Mongolia

ASNO participated in a Seminar on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Non-Proliferation on 4–5 September 2012 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The seminar was co-organised by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of Mongolia and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and also included a participant from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The primary purpose of the seminar was to discuss regulation and control of uranium ore concentrate (UOC) with a focus on safeguards and security. Mongolia has significant uranium resources and there is the potential for commercial mining operations in the next few years. ASNO presented on nuclear security and safeguards reporting and verification at uranium mines and on Australia's regulation and control of uranium ore concentrates.

ASNO Assistant Secretary John Kalish participating in the Seminar on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Non-Proliferation in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, September 2012

ASNO Assistant Secretary John Kalish participating in the Seminar on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Non-Proliferation in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, September 2012

Technical visit from Kazakhstan

In June 2013, Australia and the IAEA co-hosted a technical visit on the implementation of nuclear security in the uranium industry for a delegation from Kazakhstan. Senior officials from the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Committee and Kazakhstan's state nuclear company Kazatomprom visited to learn about Australia's regulatory system for nuclear security at uranium mines and obtain hands-on experience of security at an Australian uranium mine in order to compare with uranium mine security in Kazakhstan. This benchmarking tour formed part of Australia's on-going engagement with the IAEA and other uranium producing states to promote, share and collaboratively develop best practice in uranium mining safeguards and physical protection.

As part of the tour, the delegation spent time in Canberra discussing with ASNO the role of material accountancy in enhancing nuclear security, the difference in threat that Australia and Kazakhstan face, information management and the different elements used in physical protection systems. The delegation then visited the Olympic Dam and Honeymoon uranium mines where representatives of the uranium mines discussed the details of implementing Australian regulations at the mine site. The group also had the opportunity to visit ANSTO's OPAL research reactor, the Bragg Institute and hold discussions with ANSTO's Minerals Division. The visit was valuable in demonstrating different approaches to security and physical protection in the two countries.


29 Available at: www.apsn-safeguards.org, and http://www.iaea.org/safeguards/Resources_for_States/additional-documents.html.

30 Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, USA and UK.